Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ko Wai (Whai) Updated

Taking it easy off Good Feeling Resort's budget beachside bungalows Ko Wai - that's big Ko Chang in the background.

Last visited February 2012

Ko Wai is a small hilly island about one hour by slow ferry (there are speedboats) south of big Ko Chang in the eastern Gulf.
Party types and comfort-travellers will hate this place - there are no specialist bars, clubs or restaurants, no roads, few tracks, no villages, no shops, no ATMs, - just 5 resorts, one a relatively recent and isolated midrange joint, the other 4 budget oriented, the flashest of which struggles to get above flash-packer. Some recent visitors have complained about the influx of daytrippers from Chang and the mainland each day, but these are easy to avoid and can in fact offer good variety.

Ko Wai in the far eastern Gulf to the south of Ko Chang and north-west of Ko Mak. Trat is the nearest mainland regional city (modified Google Earth image).

A copy of an aerial photo at Pakarang Resort in 1998 - the beach at top left is where Paradise Resort is located. Good Feeling resort starts at the pier on the right of this beach and continues around the corner of the coast halfway to the pier in the middle. This pier belongs to Pakarang Resort. The pier and beaches at top right are where Ao Yai Ma (Gran Ma Hut) is located. I reckon this shot must have been taken at the lowest tide of the year - there was not this much sand on both my trips - image Wikepedia Commons - khaosaming

Pakarang had a new image when I returned in 2012. Map nerds will hate how they have reversed things so that north is now straight down, but I guess it makes sense in orientating yourself when standing in front of the map - Ko Wai Paradise Resort is indeed to the right etc.
Note how the amount of sand has diminished markedly - maybe a full moon high tide after some wet season storm erosion.


With the exception of the new Ko Wai Beach Resort, all the beaches on Wai extend along the North Coast and are easy to access. You can walk from Paradise#3 to Gran Ma Hut#3 along a pretty good coastal track in under 45 minutes (modifies from Google Earth).
Might be clearer if you click image to expand.

Starting from the western end of the north coast:

Ko Wai Paradise's 3rd "unknown" beach. This is a good 250m from the resort's restaurant behind the main beach, but bungalows actually extend all the way to here. None of the daytrippers seem to find this gem - hell even some Paradise guests never make it here. Nice sand, some okay snorkelling off the beach.

Bungalows behind Paradise's 3rd beach. A German girl we talked to in the ferry got one of these for 300baht - okay, outside bathroom and breakfast non-inclusive but similar would cost you double in the Andaman high season 2012. If you want to get away from it all in an idyllic spot this would be hard to beat. Um, apart from Wai's Good Feeling and Gran Ma Huts.

Ko Wai Paradis'es 2nd beach is a little closer the restaurant which is behind the main beach in background. Notice proximity of bungalow to sand far right of pic.

Ko Wai Paradise's main beach. This is a fine beach, first off the arrival pier in background. Sand continues some distance into the sea, water is crystal clear and not too shallow at lowest tide. Snorkelling is pretty good here by Thai standards - and attracts a crowd of daytrippers from nearby Ko Chang. However this mid-afternoon 2012 shot shows relatively few people, perhaps they have moved on to Pakarang's beach because my 1998 stay at Paradise saw busy afternoons. German girl said there were lots of daytrippers from about 1000 to 1300. Interestingly there is a sign and chain on the main beach just behind camera saying PRIVATE GUESTS ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT. In English script which might miss the mark considering the bulk of daytrippers are Russian. However the far end of the main beach seemed to have few people in busy 1998 and no daytrippers seemed to find even the 2nd beach.
Paradise's bungalows start behind the sand just this side of the jetty. Good Feeling's restaurant (which is a good place for a quiet and inexpensive meal when Paradise's is busy) is immediately on the landward end of the pier with around 3 of their bungalows on the hillside behind. The rest are some distance along the north coast behind the jetty.

I stayed at Paradise my first 2 visits to the island - more details down page.

Good Feeling's beach. This is maybe 250m further east-south-east of the arrivals pier along a track that is pretty rough with stones and tree-roots underfoot but well lit at night. There is maybe double the beach behind the camera with only half a dozen backpacker style bungalows - the type which tend to attract those long-term travellers. I remember walking down here in 2008 at full high tide and some of the bungalow piers were in the water. Bungalows all have bathrooms - 300 baht without breakfast high season 2012 makes them a third the price of similar places on say Phi Phi.
Snorkelling is okay off the beach and continues to be pretty good for a good 400m further on to Pakarang Resort's pier.

The south-east corner of Ko Chang from Good Feeling's beach - I reckon this was shot with a wide-angle lens (which deepens distance) because the mountains are more dramatic live (image Panoramio-Hammarat)
Pakarang Resort's 2nd beach is next east. I shot this off the top of the National Park pavillion on Pakarang's pier - there is actually double the beach seen - behind the near rocks/palms. A pretty nice beach and only Pakarang guests find this one - the daytrippers who pile in from around 1400 to 1600 seem to miss it, the nearer main beach being so much more obvious from pier level.
Snorkelling is not too bad off this beach - best close to the pier, better IMHO than off the main beach.

Pakarang Resort's main beach from the pier. Nice sand kept well groomed. Crystal clear water which gets a bit shallow low tide but swimmable before the fringing reef (starts about 40m out) except at those lowest tides around full moon and no moon and then for only an hour or so around lowest tide (which could be at night depending on when you visit).
Coral and fishies so so on the reef (the former pretty mono- coloured), best close to the pier (actually just on the seaward side of the National Park pavilion).
I stayed at Pakarang latest 2012 trip - more details down page.

Coral on the fringing reef shot from Pakarang's pier, lowest tide. A good fish show along here at times.

Ao Yai Ma - Gran Ma Hut's main beach - is 10/15 minutes walk along the coastal track east of Pakarang. Pretty easy going these days - there is a small steep headland to cross but I noticed some steps had been cast to make this not the problem it was in earlier visit.
Once again a nice beach, one which doesn't get visited by too many other people. Water tends to be a bit shallow at lowest tides but no worse than Pakarang. There is a similar fringing reef and I think the snorkelling must be okay because one of the daytrip snorkelling boats out of Ko Chang moored off this and the two smaller neighbouring beaches each day.

Gran Ma Hut is maybe the most laid back resort on the island. Most bungalows are in the trees behind the beach. Restaurant is up on a small hill overlooking the pier through thick tree crowns. Fish pens at pier's end guarantee fresh seafood. I noticed both the speedboats and the Bang Bao slow boat were dropping passengers whereas in 2008 the bigger slow boat (Bang Bao slow boat was not running) avoided the pier at lower tides - a dude on my trip had to lug his quite big pack from the Pakarang pier.

Oops! Falling tree did a good demolition job on this bungalow. I wouldn't freak - falling trees tend to be a wet season thing when high winds, wet soggy soils, rotting wood and weight of water on foliage combine to bring them down. I'd be surprised if Gran Ma Hut stays open wet season - certainly Pakarang and Paradise close between mid-August and the start of October.

A little further east over a short section of rocks is Gran Ma's second beach - not too much sand here but when I came by in 2008 a daytrip speedboat had called in to take advantage of a much nicer beach. Maybe we can call this Ao Noi Ma (Noi means small).

Gran Ma's third beach is a little further on again - the most easterly beach on the north coast. I shot this from the end of the pier at the far western end of the first beach - I couldn't be bothered rock-hopping over there. Then I noticed a couple of Gran Ma guests walking around on a track behind the headland trees. Duh.

Ko Wai Beach Resort's (the new mid-range place) beach is around the eastern corner of the island on the south-east coast. Pakarang Resort didn't want to give me any hiking instructions because they thought I'd get lost (Lady Tezza was hoping I'd get lost) so I grabbed a kayak and checked it out. But because I knew the strongish easterly sea breeze would make for choppy conditions once around the island corner for this inexperienced kayaker I didn't take my camera in case it got a dunking. The beach is small (one guy told me it is artificial but Pakarang's early aerial phot0 which predates the new place shows a patch of sand there) but it looked okay - although I didn't see any guests in fairly busy mid February. Note this place catches the wind in dry season whereas the north coast beaches are fairly sheltered.
I couldn't find a pic of the beach I could pinch on the web - the resort's website has an anti-copying thingy. So you'll have to google it up for yourself. The place seems expensive compared to its appearance.

Staying at Ko Wai Paradise

I wrote this after my second stay in 2008. The first was in 1998.
I like to stay at a different place when I revisit an island and I usually jump off the ferry un-booked, but this trip coincided with the leadup to Chinese New Year and mindful of how popular Wai was with weekending Thais on my 1998 visit, I chickened out. I was real keen on staying at Ao Yai Ma - Gran Ma Hut in the south of the island but the only phone # I could access was Paradise Resort, my accommodation first trip.
No problem really because Paradise is a pretty good place, on the nicest stretch of beach with fairly good snorkelling along the fringing reef, great views of Chang’s mountainous southern coast and other islands and value bungalows at 250 and 300. (UPDATE - some of the smaller bungalows were still 250 in 2012. Hell, I paid that in 1998 and was happy).

All the bungalows are outside bathroom jobs - split roughly equal between small 250baht jobs and bigger 300s. They start just west of the jetty, built on piers against the steep hillside right along the path heading west almost to that 3rd beach mentioned before. It must be the best part of 500m from bungalow #1 to bungalow #37. (UPDATE - more in 2012). No bungalow is more than 25m from the water. In the far western section the forest tends to overshadow the bungalows - the guys at reception referred to this part as “In the Jungle”. Looked pretty neat to me - the one catch - a fair walk back to the restaurant in the middle of the first beach.
Note there are 3 bathroom blocks along the way, and they were in fair condition and kept reasonably clean. Squat toilets. Good mirrors and basins.

Most bungalows are largely unchanged since my first trip except the timber has weathered into a greyish hue - and there are now more of them. In ‘98 they only stretched to the second beach, and now (2008) they go almost to the third. (UPDATE 2012 - they do extend to immediately behind the most distant beach). A lot of the newer ones are 300 jobs and showed a variety of designs - some with very extensive balconies. The 250s seemed to be cloned off each other.

Typical 250b bungalow. This is actually my '98 hut (this trip, my camera's backup batteries failed on Wai) - the only difference in 2008 is the wood had weathered to grey.

The 250 bungalows are basically a box with a double bed and verandah. Just enough room for 2 and their gear. No shelves, few hooks. The mattress was very firm, the pillows fluffy and the mosquito net was in good condition. No fan, no towel, no toilet paper or soap. (Update - this could have changed since 2008 - many LOS budget bungalows are providing soap and towels now). Light just bright enough for reading. Nice spacious veranda with those great beach, bay and southern Chang views. No hammock. Big outside trash bin only. Quiet at night - no long tails and the generator which is over near the restaurant cuts out around 2300.
Value at 250? Well yeah - you don’t get too many bungalows below 300 these days, particularly so close to the beach/water. Just about all of these have nice views, which made hanging on the raised veranda after a day of sun, snorkelling and swimming a pretty sweet way to spend some time.

This is a 2012 shot of my 2008 250 baht bungalow (dates can confuse but remember my camera was out of action in 2008). The interesting thing is it looks as if it has been refurbished - the timber is much less a weathered gray. Not sure if hammocks are now supplied - a lot of travellers bring their own.

Some of the more recently built bungalows west of the restaurant are bigger and a few share common verandahs and look to be suitable for big-family accommodation when combined.

The grounds were kept pretty clean - I noticed that 20 minutes after the last daytripper had left the main beach was spotless.

The downside is that Paradise is the daytrip beach and it gets real busy - at one stage I counted 5 small/medium Thai type ferries and 2 speedboats tied up at the pier and over a hundred people in the water, more than half with masks and snorkels.
The small pier at Paradise/Good Feeling can get pretty crowded (image Panoramio-mdeck_1999)
Good Feeling’s restaurant is actually immediately behind the pier on the eastern end of Paradise’s beach. The restaurant is a good place to eat because food was appreciably less expensive than Paradise’s. It was also one of the top people-watching places on the island - some daytrippers come for the full day but more arrive in shuttles as the snorkel/island trip boats do their round of locations - so there was always a line of colourful people shuffling past and boats putting in and casting off from the pier.

The daytrippers seemed divided pretty evenly between farangs and Thais. The Thais are always good value in their brightly coloured flotation vests and high holiday spirits - and with a majority of the farangs being Russian and quite a few of them similar Anna Kournikova bikini-babe/g-string girrrl clones to those decorating Ko Samet, a bit of relaxed people watching from my bungalow’s veranda was no hardship.
Another gratuitous shot of a Russian bikini babe (see Ko Samet page). Wait a bit - this aint no Kourni-clone, but she sure do look familiar - image Sports Illustrated

But if you want peace and quiet, no problems. For a start, there is a double sign about two thirds along the beach saying PRIVATE BEACH PAST HERE - RESORT GUESTS ONLY, and I was surprised at how many of the daytrippers were respecting this. Not all, but if you keep heading west at Paradise past the main 300m long beach there is about 50m of rock and then a second beach say 60m long. Then comes another longer section of rock and finally on the immediate far side of the low western rocky point is another tiny but very nice stretch of sand with quite good swimming and snorkelling off the beach. Paradise’s path with bungalows adjacent goes right along here, and no daytrippers seem to make the third beach.

The restaurant serves good food. I noticed the prices were maybe 20-30% higher than nearby Good Feeling and more distant Pakarang in both 2008 and 2012 trips.
Thorntree regular Callippo gave me this info about Pakarang: "Pakarang's restaraunt is now better value, the food being much better than Paradise (it always had a better menu). It must be the daytrippers - too tempting for Paradise not to up the prices with a captive daytime market". When I called in at lunchtime latest trip to check prices there must have been 130 daytrippers getting stuck into their set meal. Maybe a good time to head for one of the other restaurants for prompt service.

Ko Wai Paradise's restaurant in 1998

Paradise's restaurant 2012 - not greatly changed.

Staying at Pakarang Resort
For my latest trip I decided to stay at Pakarang - mainly on account it has a website and can be booked online (when I travel with The Bride I rarely have the courage to jump off the ferry unbooked). Lady Tezza hauling bags around in search of a vacancy aint a happy camper.

The southern half of Pakarang Resort from the top of the National Park rotunda on the pier.

Pakarang is a surprisingly big place with a wide range of rooms and bungalows (about 50) which range from flashpacker to budget. It has a big pier with a very fancy 2 storey rotunda type thingo - part of the adjacent National Park Oceanic Research outfit, which par for the course for Thai government instrumentalities, has the flashest buildings on the island and the usual bunch of guys sitting around doing nothing. Oh yeah, and big concrete tanks full of seawater and turtle hatchlings.

Chez Tezza at Pakarang
This is what they call a big wooden bungalow. Plenty of room for an extra single mattress alongside the existing king sized bed. This mattress thin but reasonaby comfy. Fan, cold water. Clean and in good condition. Insect screens seemed to work, so we didn't set up the net. Nice big verandah for checking the beach and distant Chang view (most of Pakarang's bungalows are front row - the few second rowers are staggered and higher up slope so they also have a view).
At 1000 baht (2012 high season) not great value compared to smaller fan bungalows at the other resorts, but overall this was one nice place - our second favourite of the 7 resorts stayed at on our Feb/March Thailand trip (first was Boutique Raft Resort at Sai Yok north of Kanchanaburi). Budget travellers will find better value in Pakarang's 600b small bungalows.
Aircon bungalows are also available.

This motel-like block and a similar one further south seemed popular. It has some interconnecting rooms (fan and aircon) good for big families. I think they also may have been used by overnighting Russian island-trippers out of Pattaya - both were running 100% our first night.

The Russsians are coming! Each afternoon around 1400 four or five daytrip boats would dock and a bunch of Farangs (mostly Russian) would descend on Pakarang's restaurant and main beach. Interestingly a good 2 dozen or so would walk south on the coastal path under our bungalow verandah from which this is taken - I'm not sure if they were heading for the turtle tanks 2 minutes on or Gran Ma Hut's nice beach 10 minutes on.
I'm not against daytrippers - they certainly add colour and ensure a good turnover of food etc in the restaurant so it stays fresh and cheap.
But 1630 they were gone.

Part of Pakarang's big restaurant. Good views, service and food. Prices seemed typical of budget bungalow restaurants although the 65 baht club sangas with chips and 40/70 baht small/big Changs are lower than average. There was a computer for guests' use (not free) and wi-fi for those with their own laptops in the restaurant.


This is one small island with very limited tracks. You can walk from Paradise’s third beach in the NW along the coastal track past Good Feeling and Pakarang to Granma Hut’s third beach in the NE in 45 minutes no sweat (track 1 on map).

When down at Gran Ma's bay, there is a rough track which climbs up over the hill to a small rocky cove on the south-east coast (track 2).

Back at Pakarang you can walk up past the garbage dump benind the bungalows and go over the hill to a bigger but nondescript southern coast bay (no real beach) and return on another track which follows a fence-line to end up at Good Feeling’s seaside bungalows. Some nice rainforest and rubber tree vegetation along here, not much else (track 3).

There is a sign around about Paradise’s #20 bungalow to Sunset Viewpoint - this goes steeply across to a narrow rocky inlet on the south-west coast which indeed is nice for sunset viewing and not bad for swimming if you are experienced in entering and leaving water in sometimes choppy conditions off rocks. Don’t leave your return too late - thick vegetation and a steep sometimes tricky track makes for no fun when it gets dark (track 4).

In 2008 there was a sign+map on the back wall of Paradise's restaurant showing the location of these tracks. Hopefully it is still there, but I forgot to look latest visit.

As I said, there is supposed to be a track from Pakarang to the new Ko Wai Beach Resort, but Pakarang were not too keen to tell me where it started. I had a look but nothing seemed obvious unless it goes off track 3 above which I last did in 2008 before the new resort opened.


Pakarang Resort’s
slow boat, a small ferry, delivered to all 3 piers on Wai in 1998 and 2008. It left Laem Ngop around 1500 and returned around 0800. I went back to the mainland on this boat - it is reasonably comfortable (much more so than the best seat on a speedboat) and the views of the south and east coast of Chang and the smaller nearby islands are very nice. I think the trip was a bit under 2 hours.
However it stayed tied to the pier the full length of my 2012 stay which suggests the speedboats from the mainland are the go these days. Maybe Parkarang's ferry is used to haul food and other supplies these days.

You can get a speedboat from Laem Ngop and I think from the Leam Sok pier which is further to the south-east from Trat (but closer to Wai).
Mr Ball’s KO MAK.com speedboat information is good for speedboat times as is his info on getting to Trat/Laem Ngop from Bangkok and Leam Sok from Trat.

Speedboats and slowboats come from Bang Bao on Ko Chang - the slowboat goes on to Ko Mak and the speedboats also connect Mak and the more distant Ko Kut. Bang Bao boat is one outfit and Google will find others like Kae Bea Hut speedboat. Once again Mr Ball's website has good info on times etc.

The Bang Bao slow boat ("wooden boat") out of Bang Bao on big Chang. A pretty relaxed way to get to Wai compared to a sometimes bumpy, wet speedboat. Less than half the passengers left the boat at Wai - the rest continued to Ko Mak. Like virtually all boats out of Chang, this one does a free shuttle connection from accommodation to the pier at Bang Bao on Chang's south-west tip..

If you are visiting Wai you might consider nearby:




If you see mistakes or have extra info, please post below. If you have questions, please put them on the Forum, accessed via the Index - I don't get to check each island page each day but I try to check the Forum when not travelling.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Budget Cruising and Paragliding the Turkish Coast

Typical gulet south of Oludeniz. This was “Sydney” which ran tandem with “Blue Key” most of the trip. The area under the front sail is covered with thick foam mattresses which are packed with sunbathers in this shot and are ideal for sleeping under the stars at night. The bowsprit has a padded sailbag which is a real comfy perch - I spent a lot of the time sitting here checking the scene.
Picture yourself strapped into a tandem paraglider at the top of a 2000m mountain. You and your pilot are going to run down a short slope, take off, cruise out over the edge, and after 20 to 30 minutes of soaring and drifting land on a drop-dead gorgeous beach directly below. You are on the spectacular Mediterranean coast of Turkey, the mountain is the soaring Babadag and the picture-postcard beach is Oludeniz.
Babadag is not too much short of Australia's highest peak, Kosciusco, but a few minutes after take-off we are considerably higher riding an updraft as the sea-breeze hits the mountain side. The bay and Oludeniz’s beautiful beach and lagoon look spectacular from up here. I can see the gulet Blue Key, my transport and accommodation over the next few days, moored in the southern section of the bay, a short swim away from the entrance to the lagoon. My shipmates are probably lounging on deck or at the beach, but I couldn’t resist this side trip into the heavens. Takeoff area on the less steep north-west facing slope of Babadag. Once airborne your pilot hangs a left ...........

..... which gives a view northwards. That's Fethiye by the bay in the background (widen) .....

.....and further left to this. Oludeniz's gorgeous beach and lagoon below.
Getting lower - flights typically head out to sea and then return (duh!) The big motor yacht in the bay had a small helicopter on the back deck! That is "Blue Key" just to its left near the rock islet. The lower slopes of awesome Babadag are in background.

Gulets are motorised sail boats built on traditional Turkish lines - much broader in the beam than conventional yachts for added comfort and stability. Gulet cruising Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean coasts is a big industry involving dozens of boats ranging from budget to very high end.
The Turquoise Coast between Fethiye and Olympos is pretty special, ruged and mountainous with neat little inlets, beaches and some islands thrown in plus the occasional village or town hugging steep slopes above picturesque harbours. Over the centuries the area has been sacked and settled by Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and Crusaders - it is not unusual to find the remains of a medieval Crusader castle built over the ruins of Helenic battlements. Fairly intact Roman amphitheatres can be seen in several places. Not to mention sunken cities.

Well, only one sunken city, where an earthquake saw the Byzantine era Kekova vanish beneath the waters of a sparkling bay opposite the lovely no-vehicles village of Simena which climbs steeply to a 13th Century Crusader castle. We put into one of the several small piers. Simena seems scarcely changed from what it must have looked like a century ago when it was part of Greece, so we go camera crazy with shots of the narrow spiralling streets and panoramic coastal vistas from the castle ramparts. There’s time to check the shops and tavernas and then we cast off and cruise around the bay where several small sections of Kekova are still visible above water. Several tourists from town are doing the same in kayaks and glass bottomed boats.Picture postcard Simena (widen)

Shot over town and bay - view from Crusader castle overlooking picture-postcard village of Simena. The sunken city of Kekova is between town and distant island.

History buffs will also get a kick out of the first night anchorage alongside St Nicholas Island, where St John was supposed to have been imprisoned for several years. The small hilly islet is covered by the ruins of stone huts from the third century BC and has great views from the highest point.
Gulets tied up for the night in the shelter of st Nicholas Island. Some of the stone ruins can be seen above the people on Sydney's bow (widen)

For non-history types, there is plenty to keep you occupied. Lots of swimming and snorkelling in lovely sheltered coves, beach time on several deserted stretches of sand, some trekking to good viewpoints, other village visits, fishing - and on the last night a visit to a disco in a deserted inlet - deserted except for a cove packed with half a dozen gulets and several cruising yachts. Rock and roll is optional and after a brief look I catch a ride back to Blue Key which is far enough across the bay that noise levels present no problems to a welcome sleep after a strenuous day.
Sleeping arrangements are optional - my berth is in a dual cabin below deck, just enough space, comfortable and well ventilated. But I much prefer hauling my sleeping bag and pillow up onto the thick sunbeds on deck - lack of cloud in Turkey’s rainless summer plus no lights from nearby towns make the star show pretty special.

There are no complaints about the food. Lots of Turkish salads - tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, eggs, cheese, olives - plus BBQ fish (there is always a line over the side) other meats, omelettes, fruit and heaps of thick rough-cut Turkish bread (cookie’s first stop at any town is the bakery), jam, honey, biscuits and coffee. Alcohol can be purchased on many gulets, but Blue Key is BYO. The other guests, 3 Brit gap-year girls, 2 South African soldiers, a Turkish-Australian couple on honeymoon and a young Danish couple have brought theirs with gusto - the occupants of the big super yacht with the helicopter on the rear deck which has just moored near us at Oludeniz are fortunate we are moving on.
Blue Key is crewed by three Turkish guys in their 20s, who are not only capable sailors, but great cooks, ace fishermen, good snorkellers and full of personality.
Tuckertime on deck! - image boatcruiseturkey.com

“Terry are you crazy?” asks Andre, my French pilot. I guess I am, because I agree to some aerobatics. He puts the paraglider into a tight spin, all the time his helmet camera recording a flight video which can be purchased for $US20. Whoa! Instant vertigo! “Top Gun” I’m not. So I beg out and we renew our sweep back from the sea towards the beach, me snapping merrily away on my camera. We fly in over town, do a turn and descend over the rooftops to a perfect landing at our designated mat on the beach promenade.
Approaching ground zero. Our landing mat is on the far left. Promenade strollers sometimes get a shock. As do sunbathers when the non-professionals overshoot.

I sit and watch some other landings. Amateurs come from around the world because Babadag is one of the highest easily-accessed launch sites. Not all are as skilled as my pilot and several overshoot, scattering sunbathers on the beach and in one case, swimmers in the water.
Good entertainment, but I notice Blue Key’s tender cruising into the beach for me. Time to depart towards Olympos with its lovely cliff-ringed cove backed by ruins overgrown by thick forest. Plus an ex-hippy commune further up the narrow valley featuring budget accommodation including tree houses - wooden huts on high piers, up around the tree crowns.

Gorgeous bay and beach at Olympos. Forest in narrow valley behind conceals ruins from many eras - this shot actually taken from smashed rampart of old Crusader fort. The bay is too shallow for the Gulets which put into Andriace harbour about 50km south. After a few hours shopping and checking St Nicholas' Church in Demre it's into the minibus for the trip thru the coastal mountains to Olympos village which is about 2km upvalley.
Funky treehouse bungalows in the village at Olympos - image boatcruiseturkey.com

Fully catered gulet cruises start at around US$215 for 4 days and 3 nights low season. High season (June to mid Sept) starts around $255. Longer trips and one day cruises are also offered. There are many operators - two of which are http://www.bigbackpackers.com/bluekey1.html and http://www.boatcruiseturkey.com/.
The main ports of departure are the holiday towns of Fethiye and Marmaris, several hundred km south of Istanbul. Turkey’s long distance buses are inexpensive and excellent. You can fly into nearby Dalaman and several Greek islands are within a short ferry ride.
Spring sees mild to warm days, cool nights, little rain. Summer can be very hot, even drier, more crowded. September is perfect with less heat and fewer crowds, as is October except you can expect more rainy days as the month progresses.

Paragliders are steerable parachutes. Their larger than normal fabric area plus a kind of aerofoil shape to the wing or canopy means they can actually gain altitude in updrafts. On a tandem, the pilot sits behind and above the passenger, ensuring top views. Google “paragliding Oludeniz” for some details. This season’s prices start around the $150 mark.
Unseasonal early storm saw a landslide block the winding access road to mountain peak - a two hour delay while a grader was brought up to clear the way (widen).

If you fancy budget cruising beautiful islands perhaps you could check the Whitsunday Cruising page

If you see any mistakes or have extra info, please post it below. If you have questions, please ask them on the FORUM which can be accessed thru the index - I don't get to check individual pages often but I try to monitor the forum daily when not on a trip.

Friday, March 7, 2008


Everyone wants a bungalow on stilts over the water. How about a budget-priced one in an otherwise nice midrange resort with cool pool etc? Cococape Resort on Ko Mak can do this.

Last visited February 2012

Ko Mak has certainly changed over the years. This is a shot I took on my first visit in 1998 - there is now a paved road along this track although the surrounds are still palm plantations. Most of the "welll-trafficked" roads are now paved - although there is never much traffic. In '98 all the roads were unsealed. There's a lot more accommodation even compared to my second visit in 2008, particularly in the mid-range but budget travellers still have the choice of several nice places.

Ko Mak often gets confused with Ko Muk over in the Andaman. Mak is a long way from Muk - it's in the eastern Gulf near Cambodia and south of big Ko Chang. The nearest regional mainland city is Trat (modified Google Earth image).

It is a small to medium sized island, hilly at each end and fairly flat in the middle, largely covered with coconut plantations and natural forest. The beaches are quite attractive without being mind-blowing. There is now a good range of accommodation, but overall this is a pretty relaxed island - there seemed to be few longtails, not that many motorcycles, hardly any other vehicles and fewer dogs than normal. If I had to compare it I’d say it is similar to Ko Jum and Ko Phayam. It is certainly a nice contrast to a lot of big Ko Chang, giving visitors to this area a nice diversion.

Map from KO MAK. com

I simplified the above map on this Google Earth image. I haven't tried marking the beaches - they are better seen below.


All the popular beaches and resorts are located in the western half of the island. Ao Tookata is the beach at Baan Ing Kho at bottom. Ao Khao north is at Island Hut and Ao Khao resorts top right. The now defunct Sunset Resort where I stayed in 2008 was beneath the y of Lazy Day top right (modified oblique Google Earth image). Labels may be more clear if you click to expand image.

South Coast Beaches.
Ao Kao is the main beach on the south coast. It is a long beach (2.7km) and this 300m section east of Maka Thanee's pier is the most popular part - besides Maka Thanee you have TK Hut, Baan Ko Muk, Monkey Island and several others. The beach here is not bad, a bit skinny sand wise at full tide. This section seems to be kept clean of flotsam and jetsam by the resorts. At lowest tide you need to wade out a fair distance to swim and there are periodic rocks.
If you click to expand the shot you will better see the pier in background - on its far side the beach continues another 500m or so (what I'd call
far western Ao Kao0 - similar in appearance to the above central western Ao Khao and with another 4 or 5 accommodation place.

Maka Thanee has grown greatly over the years. From memory it was the only place up this end of Ao Yao in 1998 - now it is the biggest and most developed. Actually a lot of the accommodation is in attractive garden villas behind the beach but the resort now has this hotel like block housing their deluxe rooms with a pool on the beach side.
Maka Thanee's pier which receives plenty of speedboats from Chang, Wai, Kut and the mainland is no longer the rickety thing of 2008. A new impressive reception block has been built at the beach end of the pier - has a nice restaurant/cafe if you are waiting for a boat.
Most of the neighbouring resorts here have also pushed upmarket - Monkey island is probably closest to budget but I noticed it too now has a small pool behind the beach.
A small business area has grown on the opposite side of the beach road here starting just out of shot - several restaurants, a clothing store, a general store with motorcycle and bike hire etc. Tour booking office far right of pix can organise speedboat tickets, accommodation on Mak and neighbouring offices, transport back to Bangkok etc.

This is the remaining part of Ao Kao, what you could call the central and eastern section - I've simply spun 180 degrees from the previous beach shot.
There are 2 or 3 resorts in the first 150m and then no accommodation until the furthest 25%. Until this last quarter is reached the beach tends to be largely non-existent at highest tide. Water conditions are much the same as in the Maka Thanee section.

The middle section of the shot above this has no bungalows and no-one to clean the beach of stuff blown onshore by the frequent dry season sea breezes - hence the above mess. Not only unsightly - such places are a haven for sand flies and this latest visit is the first time on Mak I've been bitten. Interestingly when I walked thru here in 2008 someone had cleared the beach and I had no problems. In 1998 it was messy but no sandflies - just as well for back then this section attracted a handful of nudies. I understand sand flies can be seasonal - the '98 visit was November, the later two were in February. btw I have found coconut oil is not a bad sandfly deterrent.

The beach is certainly cleaned at attractive budget Island Hut resort which is about 25% along the beach from its eastern end at Ao Kao Resort. I reckon next time I return on a backpacking basis this will be the place.

People are always asking for a bungalow right on the sand - this is one place you can do it. Front rowers 400baht, others 300 in 2012, all with bathrooms. Nice sea-view restaurant with prices a bit lower than the average budget beach bungalow joint.

Beach at Island Hut. Attractive lower-midrange Ao Kao resort is at the small headland at the end of the beach. (last 2 images KO MAK com)

Lazy Day beach - this is immediately east of Ao Kao resort (behind small rock outcrop far background). Many think of this as a continuation of Ao Koa beach but I'm classing it as a separate beach.
This is probably the most used, swum area on Mak on account the old time Lazy Days (Dayz) backpacker resort was here. Old time Mak visitors will probably weep at the change behind the beach ...
... Lazy Dayz was a Mak budget institution until they rebuilt - now it is decidedly midrange - check the new accomm and restaurant below.

In 2008 I noticed there were still about half a dozen trad style huts on the hill which the guy told me were going for 500. But when I returned in 2012 these had disappeared. (above image KO MAK com)

The other south coast beach worth checking is Ao Tookata - over one km further west of the busy part of Ao Kao. More sand at high tide than the better parts of Ao Kao - maybe a few more rocks.
The really attractive thing about this beach is it now has 3 backpacker standard places (only one when I called by in 2008) - Marvey Beach, Baan Leam Tookata and the original Baan Ing Kao. These joints are run by brothers - probably the original landowners.

I thought the original, Baan Ing Kao was most attractive with nice tree-shaded bungalows on the slope behind the beach. A good beachfront restaurant is out of pic to right of frame. Joint has a nice little beach bar, also to right. Bungalow prices pretty good high season 2012 at 350-450. This joint has the disadvantage in that it is furthest from the arrivals road. If you want a beachfront bungalow, the others can do it. tel 087-0539553 - baaningkao.com

The North Coast Beaches.

Ao Pra from the viewpoint above Cococape Resort with maybe the western-most 20% obscured by those coconut palms and the northern most 20% also out of frame top left. This is one long beach at 2+km. Some maps label the distant km or so north of Ko Mak Resort's pier as Ao Soun Yai.
In 1998 A0 Pra/Suan Yai had the original Ko Mak Resort* (you can maybe see the boat at the pier at top left (this pic is a 2008 one - doesn't expand) and a small handful of budget places towards camera. Now all the accommodation along here is midrange by Thai price standards (although I got a less expensive bungalow at Coco Cape - see below).

This beach is kinda like Ao Kao - also suffers the low tide blues - worse towards its western end, maybe not so many rocks about, seemed to have few problems with flotsam and jetsam (the most common easterly sea breezes are off the shore here so junk gets blown the other way - note my 1998 visit saw real strong north-easterlies which are common for early dry season which tended to blow stuff onto the beach, and make things pretty blustery on the sand - maybe head to the south coast if you are coming in November-December).
* Ko Mak Resort is still going strong having extended and renewed facilities over the years. The pier there gets speedboats from Ko Chang, Ko Wai, Ko Kood and the mainland piers of Leam Ngop and Laem Sok plus the Bang Bao slow boat from Ko Chang.

Ao Lom is the western most north coast beach. The far headland where Cococape Resort is located separates it from long Ao Pra which can be seen far left background. This longish beach (1km) suffers the low tide blues as seen but if you want seclusion the one budget accommodation joint here would do the trick. Problem is I didn't note its name in passing (duh) and no Ko Mak website seems to have it. Access is easiest off the road into Ao Tookata which passes close to this beach although a track suitable for motorcycles and bicycles comes along the back of the beach from Cococape Resort.

Offshore Beaches

Ko Kham is a short distance off the north-west coast of Mak (but further than this - I shot it with a telephoto. Actual distance is 1400m from the camera). This place has a genuine white sand beach and probably the best coral close to Mak. In the past it had a great backpacker resort, but things have changed .......

... and these very upmarket condo style places were under construction (Feb2012 - looked like they could be finished by the start of next high season in November/Dec). I'm not sure if this is a very upmarket hotel or a pool-villa type development for rich dudes.

Ko Kham has a nice little beach club area - blinding white sand, very clear water, okay snorkelling, showers etc. Costs 100baht but my entry ticket from Cococape resort also entitled me to a free soft drink or water.
Cococape charges 100 extra for two way transfer - you specify the times.
When I arrived there were 2 big speedboats from Ko Chang and a whole bunch of Russian daytrippers. As I say elsewhere on this blog, Russian daytrippers are good value - lotsa lovely ladies in micro-bikinies and g-strings plus beefy blokes with big bellies hanging over tiny budgie-smugglers (Speedos).

Beach bar had the usual selection of drinks and snacks. I think they can do simple meals.

The Russians left after an hour or so - place very quiet with fewer than a dozen visitors from Mak. Some of the best snorkelling in the Mak area to left and behind those rocks in background - okay coral and fish. There is a nice sand spit to right of camera - at full low tide it goes out about 150m towards Ko Mak.

Ko Rayang Nok is a similar distance to the south-west of Mak. The closest I've been is on the passing speedboat to Ko Kut, but the beach sure looks nice, similar to Kham's and like Kham you can day-visit for a small charge. There is also a resort there - looks to be flashpacker/lower midrange in standard from the website.



The south east peninsula starts at the eastern end of Lazy Day beach. The peninsula itself has no beaches - it's a case of swimming off the rocks. I've checked the snorkelling here - nothing to get excited about.
About midway along the western side of the peninsula is Pano Bungalow with a hell of a lot of nice looking bungalows built along the hilly side of the peninsula. These would have fabulous views up the island towards Ao Kao beach and killer sunsets. The joint looked lower-midrange to me, but KOH MAK com suggests pricing is more flashpacker. The place seemed largely deserted of tourists when I went past.
A side track heads back towards Ao Nid pier on the eastern side of the peninsula - there were a couple of accommodation places high up here with views back towards the sunrise, but only Ao Bong resort seemed to be operating.
Baan Ao Nid is one of the two villages on the island. It consists of a small cluster of houses, some businesses including restaurants and small stores plus the pier itself. This has one speedboat service plus the slow boat back to the mainland operating. Close to the pier is Ball Cafe with coffee, yummy snacks, internet, trip booking and motorcycle/bicycle hire. Mr Ball is a very helpful guy and runs the rather excellent komak.com.

Note there is a small cluster of businesses around the intersection of the road north from Ao Nid and the main southern east-west road. These include a health centre, gas station, a couple of minimarts and several restaurants.
A similar set-up is found a little further west around the turn-off into Island Hut.

I got lazy and didn’t check the eastern third of the island (not even after 3 trips to Mak). Hell, it’s HOT pedalling like a madman in the mid-day sun!
There are only 3 resorts in this big eastern section and they sure look laid back on KO MAK com.
The other Ko Mak village, Ban Laem Son is in the far north-east of the island. But once again with a population of 124 it doesn't sound particularly big.


CocoCape Resort - Feb 2012
It's always nice to find an inexpensive room or bungalow in a pretty flash resort. Particularly when it is built over the ocean like our Baan Fa Sai bunglow - the one with the stuff on the balcony. At 1350 (high season, not peak) in such a nice place with good facilities and including free pier transports and okay breakfasts not bad value at all.
The 2 bungalows to the right are also Ban Fasais - the bigger one at left is the fancier Baan Chom Lurn with aircon, TV etc. There is an even fancier over water Suite Boat 100m to the right near the pier.
Cococape has a host of other types of bungalows, rooms and suites.

A bit more info on our bungalow: old time backpackers would have a deja vu moment here (except for the over-water position and hot shower) - basically a bamboo thatch box just big enough for a king sized bed (hard mattress, nice pillow, good net) and 2 people's gear. Big bi-fold doors give indoor/outdoor effect, open out to view below. Good lights, quiet fan. Unexpectedly spacious polished wood dressing room with basin and flush toilet - separate tiled bathroom with hot water. Serviced daily.

View from our overwater balcony. Hammock a sweet place with a bottle of rum late afternoon. That's Ao Pra beach in background. Cococape is not on the beach but has easy access to both Ao Pra (east) and Ao Lum (west). Although swimming off the resort's pier or in the rather nice pool meant I didn't bother with the beaches.

Mind you, your bungalow isn't always over water. Super low bi-monthly tide (get these around Full Moon and no moon: aqua-nerds will know these are the times for the month's highest tides too) saw the water recede a fair bit. Real nice for a bit of fossicking in pools to left of exposed sand spit.

Sweet pool a nice place to spend time. White rim on far side is flat making this a horizon pool - section between circular parts has water cascading down a steep embankment into a smaller pool - ideal place for 9 year olds and tezza to do the slippery dip thing. Pool bar just out of shot to left. Nice sunbathing terrace in area of camera. Covered area at right had massage lady working most times.

The last section of CocoCape's looong pier. Another nice place to spend time - sunbathing lounges and even a small bar in background. And although the tide is near dead low here, at higher levels this is a nice place to swim or snorkel with crystal clear water and some okay coral and fish (maybe the best I've seen on mainland Mak). Hell, Lady Tezza had fun fish-spotting from the pier.
Info board on pier said best snorkelling is 200m out in direction of Ko Kham (background left) but I found water gradually deepened and 150m out I could see the bottom no more. I kept going hoping to spot a shallower reef, but nada.

CocoCape has a big variety of accommodation. Some very modern resort type rooms, traditional Thai type cabanas arranged around a big lagoon, stilt-bungalows like the one left background and quite a few old hulks (foreground) on the hillside or around the lagoon - some had been converted into accommodation, others like the one in foreground untouched. Every type of accommodation seemed to have views - many elevated.

CocoCape's restaurant area is interesting - it is a short distance back from the shore with nice views plus an extra absolute waterside seating area (the opening shot top of page was shot from this terrace). Style is more traditional Thai flashpacker than ultra modern western style resort. Prices were maybe 20% higher than typical budget places, food pretty good, service fine.
There is a real good budget restaurant about 7 minutes walk away - 3 minutes up the steepish exit road, turn left and after a short distance, turn right - walk half way down the hill. This place had a handful of expat-type people dining each night, always a good sign and a good general store where you grabbed your dinner drinks from the frig.
Another 4 minutes gets you to another 3 restaurants on the main southern beach road near Maka Thani pier.

Bottom-budget at CocoCape are these Baan Talay outside bathroom backpacker style rooms. 900 baht high season 2012 including breakast for a place on piers over the water. Surrounding mangroves a bit funky. Bathroom block behind camera looked pretty clean.

Sunset Resort - February 2008
Sunset was on the south-east peninsula not too far from Pano Resort. It promised sitting platforms over the sea at the end of its pier which I'm a sucker for so I headed that way. Wasn't disappointed with that or the place in general - it was the sorta joint which attracts those long time travellers, kinda like Lazy Dayz did in the old days. I think that type of people hang around at Ing Khao these days.
Unfortunately Sunset closed down recently after the death of the owner - I got a message saying his widow is running a place next to Monkey Island resort up near Maka Thani pier on Ao Kao.
Chez tezza at Sunset Resort. Most of the bungalows look north to the sea, some east over Ao Kao beach.

Ao Khao Resort - November 1998

This place had some inexpensive outside bathroom bunglows back then and free transport from the Leam Ngop (mainland) slow boat which was the only way to access Mak at that time.
Very nice position at the better eastern end of Ao Kao beach - the only other joint around was Lazy Dayz next door where I spent considerable time because its nice food was mabye 20% cheaper than Ao Khao's excellent stuff.

Ao Kao Resort's restaurant is in a panoramic position on a small headland at the east end of Ao Kao beach with Lazy Day beach a similar distance behind. Bungalows are inland from the restaurant and beach. Bungalows upgraded, now firmly in the midrange - cheapest was 2500 when I called in in Feb 2012 but the website is now showing a 1500 price in mid-March: maybe that was taken in February - this place is very popular with Euros.
Restaurant prices now a good 50% over typical budget bungalows prices - but one cheaper even than the latter, Island Hut, is only 300m behind camera.


Basically there are speedboats and a slowboat from two piers on the mainland - Leam Ngop and Leam Sok, plus a big range of speedboats running from Ko Chang, Ko Wai and Ko Kood. There is also the Bang Bao slow boat from Ko Chang via Ko Wai. There is now a largish fast catamaran running from the mainland - details are on the Coco Cape Resort website from memory.

The various boats arrive at any of the 3 main piers on Mak - Ko Mak Resort's on the northern beach, Maka Thani's on the southern beach and Ao Nid pier in the village to the east - depending on the company. Transport is waiting to take you to your resort - many non- basic resorts have a free shuttle if they know you are coming in.

Times etc are best left to Resort and general Mak websites, most of which do a good job of keeping up to date with any changes.
KO MAK com has an excellent Getting There section (click ISLAND tag - then HOW TO GET THERE sub-tag). This covers ferries and speedboats from the mainland and Kut. Plus buses, vans, taxis, from Bangkok (including airport) to Trat and direct to Leam Ngop pier.
And flights into Trat..

If you are visiting Mak, perhaps you will be interested in nearby:




If you see mistakes or have extra info, please post below. If you have questions, please put them on the Forum, accessed via the Index - I don't get to check each island page each day but I try to check the Forum when not travelling.